Demobilized female rebels, many of whom were forced into guerrilla groups against their will, are now searching for the children they were made to abandon, according to BBC Mundo reports.
Female rebels, “banned” from getting pregnant, are either subjected to coerced abortions or made to give up their babies after giving birth. Three mothers who were child soldiers themselves when they became pregnant told their stories on BBC World Broadcast Tuesday.
According to the Colombian Agency for Reintegration (ACR), 47,348 former rebels are in the process of reintegration, and nearly 4000 of them are women. The BBC reports that 56,000 former guerrilla members have left their rebel groups in the last 11 years, almost 7000 of them are women.
There are no specific statistics on the subject of women being coerced to abortion or to give up their children.
While the ACR is helping women in the hunt for their lost children by gathering information through other former guerrilla members, many women do not know where to start looking.
Hid pregnancy to avoid forced abortion
One woman, “Maria,” who became pregnant at the age of 17, is now looking for her daughter. She hid her pregnancy until it could no longer be disguised at seven months.
“I asked God not to let it happen. To be honest, I wanted to have her. I had this feeling of happiness when I found out I was expecting a baby. That was what motivated me to hide my pregnancy,” Maria told a BBC reporter.
The guerrilla group had previously attempted abortions on other women in their third trimester, but failed. “There had been cases where a woman was forced to have an abortion in the seventh or eighth month… Many women had died like that.”
Maria was allowed three months with her baby before she was forced to give it away.
“I cried for four days. It was very difficult. But taking the baby and deserting wasn’t an option.”
After eight years in the guerrilla group Maria decided to escape, and since then has been searching for her daughter, who she believes might be in an area currently occupied and controlled by FARC.
FARC took her mother and her daughter
Like Maria, “Teresa” was forced to join the FARC as a child, after her mother was killed by the same group. At the age of 16 she became pregnant and the rebels made her give up her baby. Terresa is now in a legal battle with the family who raised her daughter.
“From the bottom of my heart, I beg you to put yourselves in my place. I did not give up my daughter. They took her from me,” Teresa was quoted by BBC Mundo.
Only few weeks after giving birth, Teresa’s commander coerced her to leave her baby with a family they knew. The girl, a teenager at the time, was also made to sign a document allowing the baby to be taken from her mother.
Teressa was lucky enough to find her daughter, but now, five years after demobilizing, she is in the midst of a legal struggle to share her child with the family who raised the child.
An official has told the mother that she has no right to her daughter, because she according to the official “will set a bad example with her subversive thinking,” BBC Mundo reported.
“They have put many obstacles in my way to stop me from seeing her,” but Teressa states she will not give up.
Government aid helped mother
With the help of the government program “Carmen” broadcast a message over the radio, which helped her find her son, who had been lost for more than 18 years. After two years of searching, the mother found her long lost child in 2010.
Carmen, who was a nurse for the FARC for 20 years, told BBC Mundo that she was afraid her son might be angry with her for giving him away. She made sure that his surrogate parents never kept the truth of his birth mother from him.
Their first meeting in almost to decades was tearful, but it was tears of joy when the family reunited, Carmen said to the BBC reporter. Carmen is now able to be a part of her son’s life, but not every former guerrilla mother is as fortunate.
Colombians officials have said that some children born in the guerrilla are killed, when they are taken from their mother according to BBC Mundo.
The names of the mothers are made up to protect their identities.
Child soldiers and rape
A 2012 report authored by the dean of the law school at Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogota, Natalie Springer, describes several harrowing cases, one of which involves a pregnant girl who was kicked in the stomach until she miscarried, because “no-one could be pregnant.”
Springer’s report claims that 42% of the girls she interviewed considered it an obligation to give sexual favors to their superiors.